Oxford family dealing with aftermath of November fire


OXFORD — Since their home was destroyed by fire last month, Sally Courtney and her family have struggled to put a roof over their heads and now face spending the winter in a three-bedroom camp near Hogan Pond.

Courtney shares the camp with her daughters, sons, son-in-law and grandchildren. Eight people, including a 4-month-old baby, a 3-year-old toddler, two high school students and four adults, are living there with six small dogs.

Courtney_house_1Their home at 25 Burns Road was destroyed in an early-morning chimney fire Nov. 10.

Although her family was unharmed, she lost a newborn puppy and several cats. The loss of the young dog affected her deeply, she said. A photo of the brown and black ball of fur has a prominent place on the family’s refrigerator.

Losing her home of 22 years has been a tough blow for Courtney and her family, she said. After a few visits, she stopped going back to the charred shell that remains because it hurts too much, she said, barely choking back tears.

“Every time I get out of there, I’m a rushing river; I just bawl,” she said.

It was a mobile home that her husband, from whom she is now separated, expanded into a 14-room house, Courtney said. She moved in on Sept. 3, 1991, she said.

Three family dogs remain at the property and a brood of chickens is running free around what remains of the house. Members of her family return daily to take care of the animals, she said.

She couldn’t afford insurance on the house, Courtney said.

The family is supported by less than $500 a month in Social Security payments from her husband and her son-in-law Tony’s wages from Walmart. Her other children go to school or stick around the house so they can ferry their relatives in the family’s only vehicle.

Almost everything the family owned was destroyed in the blaze. She received some assistance, mainly in the form of gift cards, from social service agencies to buy home goods and clothing, but with her large family, it didn’t go far, she said.

The family’s loss has been exacerbated by the stress of finding a place to live, she said. With  assistance from the Red Cross and Oxford Town Office, they stayed at a South Paris motel for three weeks. After that, Dunns Camps offered to rent the cabin until May.

Courtney said she is at a loss for what to do next. The stress of living in the cramped confines are fraying the family’s nerves, but they don’t seem to have anywhere else to go, and appeals for aid from local agencies such as Community Concepts have gone nowhere, she said.

She said she hopes the family can find a solution by the time they have to move.

“If nothing comes through by May, I’m going to be living in a tent,” she said.